Megan D. and Charlie P. co-founded the first ever group to be called “We Agnostics” in California in 1980. This is an article she submitted to the AA Grapevine two years ago, but was never published. We expect to have another post by Megan – who at 72 now has 33 years of continuous sobriety and volunteers at her local Central AA Office - in the near future. She is the author of a memoir, Transitive Woman.
By Megan D.
The “God stuff” was difficult for me to swallow when I first achieved sobriety. As a working professional, my career meant everything to me but I was near to blowing it – big time. Fortunately, I decided none too soon, I’d be a son of a gun if I’d lose everything I’d worked for for years due to my alcoholism.
Having come from a chaotic family, I despised alcoholics, especially the women. Now, as a middle-aged woman myself, I was knee deep in self-loathing. So, as we do, I stumbled through the doors of AA with a load of resentments that was killing me.
The candlelight meeting I attended weekly was in the basement of a run-down church in Hollywood. I finally raised my hand and shared that I was an atheist and had paid enormous dues to be one. No one threw me out. Rather, they nodded their heads, and told me to keep coming back!
Despite being close to ending my own life, I despised their two-dimensional views. So I kept coming back – since there was no place left to go – above ground, that is!
After a time, a gentleman of about 60, with a woolen scarf and navy blue beret, approached me, “I noticed you weren’t saying The Lord’s Prayer.” My response of “Yeah – what of it?” brought only laughter.
With over nine years of sobriety he claimed there were many like us working the program and fully enjoying the promises. I was amazed and for the first time breathed easier.
When I was six months sober, he presented me with an idea after visiting family in Texas where he’d attended meetings with some NASA scientists who’d resolved the God problem. “How would you like to help me start such a meeting in Los Angeles for AAs and newcomers who are having a tough time with God like you did?” I said, “You’ve got it!”
With childlike enthusiasm, we named our meeting “We Agnostics,” after Chapter 4 in the Big Book.
The first meeting started in the summer of 1980 in West Hollywood.
Like Goldilocks, with porridge that was too cold, too hot, or just right, we were on a quest to discover a higher power that we could turn our worries over to. I soon realized I was on what I call a return to innocence.
We attracted brilliant sober and not sober members from many world denominations like Christian, Jew, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, etc. The goal was to welcome newcomers; offer a safe setting to explore ideas. We assured them they could have a spiritual experience regardless of their beliefs. They could reap the rewards of AA – but only if they were willing to work for them.
To my great relief, I realized I had at least three higher powers. The universe – as solid as our earth in many cases, was the first. My highest self – my most evolved or selfless nature was the second. And of course the wisdom expressed at AA meetings – a power greater than myself.
Some painfully won lessons I’ve learned over the years are these:
- A problem with the “God stuff” is not a viable excuse unless your NEED TO PICK UP A DRINK is greater than your NEED TO NOT PICK UP A DRINK.
- Attend meetings often… and get a sponsor. They’ve had their own struggle.
- Learn to really listen and focus on the similarities in members, not the differences. Our diversity is our strength.
- Develop a spiritual connection with your own concept of a higher power. You’ll find that there’s a profound difference between religiosity and spirituality. Incidentally, many have returned to the traditions of our childhood, but taking only what works!
- Prayer is great therapy. Charlie P. taught me that when in pain, try getting down on your knees like I’ve learned doing – with gratitude, reaching out to the universe or to your highest self or whatever. Nothing bad ever happens – only good comes from it!
- Use the tool of translation. Remember G.O.D. as Good Orderly Direction if you like.
I don’t know about you, but I never wanted a small piece of the pie of life. If I can’t have the whole pie, I don’t want any. In other words, I am willing to work towards being happy, joyous, and free – whatever that takes.
On January 19, 2011, Charlie celebrated his 97th year with 40 years of sobriety… and I am greatly honored to have celebrated my 70th year with 31 years of sobriety.
My life has changed considerably. To this day, I remain part atheist, humanist or Buddhist. Over the years I’ve learned to take each day as it comes. Admittedly, some are more challenging than others. But the bottom line is that most are happy, joyous, and free – because today the tools in my satchel are solid.
Eventually I started a second agnostics meeting in the San Fernando Valley, and I named it Wee Agnostics rather than We Agnostics. It was We Agnostics without the anger.
It was in a hospital with a detox ward. One day, a woman who was visiting a family member in that ward, came into our meeting without knowing that it was Wee Agnostics.
Towards the end of the meeting, she shared. She said that she was a nun and that she had just walked in cold. She said she rarely had gone to a more spiritual meeting. Instead of a “god” we had made “love” our higher power.
The next week, she led the meeting.
Over the years, I’ve had a priest take my hand, leading me from the podium to a silent and startled crowd saying that the atheists he’s come in contact with in the program are among the most spiritual people he’s known.
You can learn more about that first “We Agnostics” meeting, and about Charlie P., right here: Father of We Agnostics Dies.